Friday, May 21, 2010

Ciao Italia, Ti amo

I've got about 20 min before I need to head home to pick up my suitcase and then head to the train station where I pick up my bus to Pisa.  I CAN'T BELIEVE I'M LEAVING.  Really, truly, seriously, it hasn't completely hit me yet.  One of my friends from back home recently told me that he didn't believe it until he'd been home for  a couple of weeks.  I have had a wonderful last two days in Italy. 

I finished my last final around 11 am.  I grabbed some lunch and a bottle of wine to celebrate.  I went wandering around the city with a couple of friends.  They hadn't eaten lunch yet so we stopped, had some more wine (hey, it's my last week as a legal drinker for the next three months!), and I had some chocolate mousse.  It was a day to indulge, what can I say?  After getting entirely fully, a rather tipsy, we wandered around for some gelatto.  I had strawberry and lemon.  I adore Lemon, it might be one of my favorite flavors.  We sat in the sunshine and soaked up the Florentine rays.  I came back to the Linguaviva where full celebration mode was in swing.  It was our last time all together.  Bittersweet. 

I had my last dinner at home and said goodbye to my host mom.  Eryn and I had stopped by a flower shop on the way home to pick up some flowers.  The shop was about to close so they had already closed down the credit card machine.  We only had card but the manager said, "Take the flowers and come back and pay me tomorrow." I love Italy.  This would NEVER happen in the USA. 

Today I got up and finished packing.  I did a happy dance that my next shower would be at home with warm water and a faucet I don't have to hold over my head.  Then I made my way to school, met up with some friends, and went in search of my last Italian pizza.  We sat in front of the Santa Maria Novella and chitchatted and reminisced about the incredible four months that have gone by.  I did some final souvenier shopping and bought myself a scarf cuz I just couldn't resist.   I just finished my last gelatto which was utterly delicious. 

It's been a great 2 days.  It's been a great 4 months.  I've never used the words: beautiful, lovely, stunning, amazing so much in my life.  I needed this trip.  I was exhausted, stifled, and bored when I left.  I have grown so much in the past four months.  I've learned to trust myself and my instincts.  I've learned to love getting lost.  I've met interesting people and seen the world in a whole new.  I can't wait to come back to Europe.  I can't wait to travel elsewhere.  Ideas are already brewing for my next trip. 

I am so beyond excited to be reunited with my family and friends.  But no matter what, endings are always so difficult.  I absolutely hate endings.  Yes, I know that endings always lead to beginnings, but as they say, parting is always such sweet sorrow. 

I'll probably have one more nostalgic blog once I reach American soil.  But in case I don't get around to it, thanks for reading.  I've found blogging to be very relaxing and a good way of helping to remember it all.  It's been a whirlwind. It's been a laugh.  It's been one of the best experiences of my life. 

Love to you all.

One last time from Italy,

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

2 days left...

Yesterday, in a storm of procrastination I decided to pack.  That shows you just how much I did not want to do my art history essay.  Packing offered the necessary distraction.  And I did pretty well. I'm just about all packed up.  I think my bag will make the weight limit so that's a relief.  When my roommate came home and saw what I had done, she rushed over, gave a hug, and proclaimed "I don't want to leave!!"  And then proceeded to procrastinate by packing as well.  When my host mom came home and saw that we were collectively almost completely packed, she rushed over, gave us both big hugs, and looked highly distressed.  Man, I'm going to miss her.

I was soo productive last night.  I completely packed and then wrote a six page paper.  I felt very accomplished.  Tonight I have an essay to prepare for an in-class final tomorrow.  I'm feeling much much less motivated.  But one last push and I'll be free I suppose.  It is currently pouring rain again.  Really Florence?  Is it too much to ask for a little sunshine right before I leave? Florence has been much much rainier than London ever was.  Who would have thought?

Random musings of the unfocused.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Lost and Found

I’ve been slacking on the blogging, but I feel like absolutely nothing happens and then everything happens all at once, so yeah. Here goes. I’ve got 4 days left in Italy, a country that I have absolutely, 100% fallen in love with. It wasn’t love at first sight, but how anyone could not love Italy is beyond me. I don’t want to leave Italy. I don’t want to leave its stunning mountains and rolling hills with tiny colorful houses at the top. I don’t want to leave gelato and fresh vegetables that are miraculously cooked in a way that makes them taste so delicious. I don’t want to leave my Italian mother and her incredibly generous and adorable self. I don’t want to leave a place where good wine can be bought for 3 euro. I don’t want to leave a place where art and history are around every corner. I miss my family and friends like you wouldn’t believe. But I have a simple request. Can’t you all just move to Italy instead? Why not? It’s a pretty sweet place to be. Life is good here. I spent all day staring out at the Grand Canal in Venice reading a book in the sunshine on the steps of a beautiful church. The fact that this has become a relatively commonplace activity in my world is rather ridiculous when I step back and look at it. Oh, yeah, I WENT TO VENICE this weekend! And it was incredible! And sooo cool!

But more on that in a minute. I should back track a bit about my last week of classes in Firenze. Last week was a bit odd on the home front. My Italian mama’s mom (aka nona) had some sort of heart problem (either a heart attack or stroke, we couldn’t discern the Italian completely) and was in the hospital. My host mom immediately took off for Padua and spent a couple of nights there. When she came back she was completely exhausted. She told us that she just wanted to watch some tv and go to bed. She then proceeded to tell us what she was going to watch on tv. She said something akin to “lo e odr.” Eryn and I thought she was speaking in Italian because it sounded like gibberish and therefore had no idea what she was talking about. Finally we got that she was telling us that she was going to watch “Law and Order.” Haha. It was of the moments that made me think critically about the English language. I feel like it’s pretty harsh sounding and awkward by comparison to the fluid Italian language. Anywho, my host mom left the next night to go back to Padua. She’s supposed to be back on Tuesday. Fingers crossed that everything has gone well and that her mom is recovering. Her mom has dementia so the whole thing is additionally traumatic. Prayers for a speedy recovery.

Meanwhile, I had some long days of classes and pretty standard fare academics-wise. We did go to the Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens on Thursday which was pretty sweet. The Pitti Palace is this HUGE palace that different wealthy families have lived in since like the 1400s. The Medici moved in at one point and increased its size to absolutely insane proportions. And while the palace was amazing itself, nothing compares to the ridiculously beautiful Boboli Gardens out back. It’s just this massive, well groomed garden filled with flowers and fountains and greenery. So pretty. Last week was week 2 of complete rain so that put a damper on things. I wrote a paper for class and did a lot of procrastinating of paper writing, so it was a pretty average week.

But this weekend was anything but average. On Saturday, my whole ACM program met at the train station at 9:30 for a two hour ride to Venice. It was POURING both in Venice and in Firenze. It made for a soggy introduction to the city. Umbrellas are extremely difficult to navigate with on tiny cramped streets. But from the minute you step out of the train station, Venice is a sight to behold. It is unlike anything I have ever seen before. No cars, all boats, gondolas everything, houses that look like they’re floating (and for all intensive purposes they are in fact floating). We took a waterbus to our hotel. The tide was extremely high due to the rain. We dropped our stuff off and had class in San Marco. It’s this giant church and equally giant piazza. The piazza was so flooded, however, that the entrance to the church was completely surrounded by two feet of water. People were taking off their shoes and wading in the water. The water comes up through the ground here and that’s part of the reason that they think one day Venice will sink completely. Craziness. Eventually we did get in the church a few hours later when the tide had gone down a bit. There were insanely awesome mosaics plastered over every inch of the place. I can’t even imagine the kind of artistic skill and time something like that would take. So that was sweet. We had some free time to walk about and I did some window shopping. They sell Murano glass everywhereee and masks aplenty. I wanted to buy EVERYTHING. I restrained myself for the moment however. We had dinner at the hotel which was decent. The group wanted to go out that night and we went in search of a bar. Venice is sooo dead at night. There is practically zero nightlife, so it was basically our group in a bar. Some good conversation and we called it a relatively early night.

On Sunday we went to a palace for class. There were pretty incredible chandeliers all over. These things are HUGE. So cool and made entirely of glass. Then we had the whole rest of the day off to explore and do whatever we wanted. Awesome. I stopped at a glass store, found myself a ring and tried to pick up some souvenirs. Then I headed to the Guggenheim Museum. Peggy Guggenheim lived in a pretty, large house right on the Grand Canal and was a major patron of modern art. She is even rumored to have had an affair with Jackson Pollack. The deal for the weekend was that we (the ACM kids) were allowed to go to one museum of our choosing and get reimbursed for it later. I’m not really into modern art. I generally stare at it with a quizzical look and then realize that I just don’t get it. But I thought I’d give this museum a chance and it turned out pretty well. The house was beautiful and the pieces interesting. After the museum, I wandered off on my own for some shopping and exploring. I had lost my map and Venice is notorious for having really confusing streets. But I knew some major landmarks so I figured, why not go get lost for a bit? And that’s exactly what I did. I bought some more souvenirs, grabbed a late lunch, and just got myself totally lost in Venice. I loved it. I loved wandering around without direction, not a worry in the world, and no particular time I needed to be somewhere. It was liberating. The night was really chill and I was exhausted from the day. Oh, and the sun came out on Sunday. It was 75-degrees and gorgeous. Venice is much nicer in the sunshine.

Monday (aka today) I had class at another church and then got to see some Tintoretto paintings which were pretty cool. Then I had another 6 hours of free time to fill before meeting back up to take a train home at 4. I wandered some more, got lost some more, and managed to find my way back with ease. I’ve really learned to trust myself with directions and knowing that I’ll be able to figure out how to get home. It makes life a bit easier especially when going off on your own. Today I found this beautiful church with a view of the Grand Canal only about 5 min away from our hotel. I sat outside with a biography on George Eliot (which has me completely engrossed at the moment) and thoroughly enjoyed the view and the moment. The hours whiled away, I ran into some other ACMers, grabbed another late lunch, and had a genuinely lovely afternoon. I can’t remember the last time I had all afternoon to just lay outside and read in the USA. I am a very lucky girl.

I hope it’s coming across that I’m truly valuing and treasuring every moment I have in Europe. I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to make this trip happen. With time running out, I simply can’t believe where the time went. I feel like I was just saying tearful goodbyes with mom at the airport and taking my first Tube ride. Tomorrow I need to write a take-home final for my art history class. Wednesday I have a class and Thursday I have my last final. I fly to London Friday night (volcano allowing) and I’ll be home by Saturday night. So crazy. I’m dreading figuring out how to pack everything. It’s going to be a challenge.

As much as I love Italy, I do look forward to going home. I can’t wait to be reunited with my family and friends. I can’t wait for unlimited texting. I can’t wait for Chipotle (hahaha). I can’t wait to drive my car. But if I’ve learned anything on this trip, it’s to live in the moment and treasure each breath I take. So that’s what I’m going to do this week.

Livin’ in the moment.

Monday, May 10, 2010

First Volcanoes, Now Rockslides

The world might be ending.  Who would have thought that both volcanoes and rockslides would have a pretty major impact on my traveling this semester?  The volcano in Iceland is stirring up again creating chaos in the air.  I'm watching a movie in class right now because my teacher is stuck in Munich until tomorrow.  What to do when watching a movie without a teacher present? Time to blog. 

On Thursday, I went to the Accademia to see Michelangelo's David, the original this time.  It was pretty epic.  We also saw The Rape of the Sabine which was really neat.  I'd already seen replicas of these statues but nothing beats an original.  Friday was a homework day so not much to report. 

Saturday I decided to see some of Tuscany.  I got up early and headed to the train station.  I wasn't sure exactly where to go so I just waited to see what train times were and picked a destination rather at random.  I decided on Arezzo, which is famous for being the hometown of Petrarch.  The movie "Life was Beautiful" also has scenes filmed there because it was the director's hometown.  It was about an hour train ride away.  I love taking the train in Italy.  You get to see the most beautiful landscape flashing by the window.  Anyway, I got to Arezzo and decided to wander.  Since the only thing I knew I wanted to see was Petrarch's casa, I just kind walked about until I ran into it.  I did some window shopping, got some gelatto, and took in the town.  Petrarch's house was at the top of this huge hill.  So I walked on up, took an obligatory photo, and nerded out a bit.  At the top of the hill I found this beautiful park.  It was lush and green and had a massive statue of Petrarch at the center.  The remains of a medieval wall also runs along the outside of the town.  It lined the park.  I sat on the wall and read a book in front an incredible landscape of the Tuscan countryside.  Awesome.  It's moments like those that I'm going to miss about Italy.  To me, Italy is all about its little towns.  These little towns like Arezzo, Lucca, or Siena is where I've fallen in love with Italy.  Florence is nice, but if I was ever to spend more significant time in Italy, I'd settle in a mountainside village somewhere. So Saturday was pretty wonderful.

On Sunday, a friend and I decided to go to the Cinque Terre.  It's a national park of five little towns on the coast of the Mediterranean.  And it just might be one of the most beautiful places on Earth. We got up super early and caught a 7:45 train (barely catching it because my friend showed up about 30 sec before it left!) It's a 2.5 hour train ride La Spezia.  From La Spezia you can take a train to the various towns or you can hike.  We decided to hike from the first town to the second.  Both were unbelievably beautiful.  I'll post pictures to facebook soon. We spent some time in each and got a good feel for the towns.  We attempted to hike to the third town but alas we could not.  There had been a rockslide which had closed down the paths to the next three towns.  So we used the trains for the rest of the day. Each town was insanely wonderful.  The colors in the Cinque Terre is what stood out to me most.  The color of Mediteranean of was almost aquamarine.  The trees were so vividly green.  Roses grew everywhere.  Brilliant reds, yellows, purples, blues, and pinks.  If the natural landscape wasn't vivid enough, all of the houses are painted in bright colors.  Bright pinks, oranges, yellows, reds everywhere. And now, as a result, I really want a bright yellow house up on a hill somewhere.  There were vineyards and olive fields up and down the mountains. We moved town to town, doing a little shopping, taking it all in.  In the fifth town, Monterosso, we grabbed a late lunch and stared out at the sea.  I had 4 formaggi gnocchi which was delicious.  There was an older American couple at the next table over from us and we got to chatting.  We called it a day and headed back to La Spezia.  We had some train delays so it took nearly four hours to get home.  Totally worth it.  The Cinque Terre is definitely near the top of my list of my favorite places that I've had the opportunity to see on this trip.  I don't even know how to describe it.  It's one of those places you just need to see to believe. 

It was an absolutely exhausting weekend.  I came home and crashed.  But the places I got to see were wonderful.  I have one more weekend left in Italy and it'll be in Venice.  It's the final countdown for classes. I'll have a lot to take care of accademically and in preparing to leave.  Mixed emotions about the whole thing.  Here's to hoping the skies clear up enough by May 22nd when I fly home! Yikes.


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Singing in the Rain

It's gloooomy in Firenze today.  It's been pouring since I woke up.  Only 18 days left in Italy. This weather is so not acceptable!  For a number of dull reasons, I moved my flight up to Saturday May 22nd.  I'll have about 36 hours of travel (I can't do math but that's my best guess taking into account time changes) to make it home and I'm going to start mentally preparing for it now.  (bus to Florence train station, hour long bus to Pisa, flight from Pisa to London Gatwick that arrives at 12:30 am, 1:50 am bus from Gatwick to Heathrow, chilling in the airport for about  9 hours, flight from Heathrow to Philadelphia at noon, two hour layover in PA, flight to Chicago arriving at approximately 7:22 pm).  Brutal, but as mom said, thank God I'm young and like to read.  

I have absolutely no idea where the time went this semester.  It flew.  Soon I will be home and then a week later back to Lake Forest to work for the summer.  I'm trying to take each of my remaining days here day by day and not worry about the diminishing time. 

I feel like life is going by soo fast these days.  I have one semester left of college! Eek! Many of my friends from the Forest are graduating this week and headed out into the real world.  Last year I was able to say, whew, glad I don't have to face that reality so soon.  This year, that doesn't really fly.  Congrats to my graduating seniors! The Forest just won't be the same. 

Oh and last night I went to see Iron Man 2.  There's a movie theater that shows films in english once a week.  It was pretty good, though not as good as the first one.  Continued love for Robert Downey Jr.  I have a long art history class this afternoon.  I'm not going to lie, about 30 min into an art history class my eyes start to glaze over and I turn to whatever day dream comes to mind.  But we were promised hot chocolate this afternoon so I'm hoping that'll be proper motivation to pay attention.  I'm taking all of my classes in Italy for CR, meaning I need a C or higher to pass.  And they don't count towards my GPA.  I've never been a less dedicated student in my life as a result.  Ha, but I'll be back to the grindstone soon enough.  

Here's what's left:  Three more classes through Thursday.  Three day weekend that will include a trip to the Cinque Terre and a celebration of Notte Blu. (Details to come on what exactly I'm talking about.)  One last full week of classes and paper writing.  Weekend trip to Venice.  Finals. Packing. Flight to London. Flight to Philadelphia. Home.

Deep Breaths.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Little Things

Wow it’s been a week since my last post. A lot of little things have happened in the past week to make it one of my favorite weeks in Italy. I’m going to try to remember them all. Let’s see, the highlights…hmmm…

On Monday after class, I went out with some friends and spent the afternoon in the sunshine. We ate gelato and talked about traveling and just life in general. A particularly lovely afternoon.

On Tuesday, the French girl/woman (twenty-something person) that lives with us made dinner. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned Charlotte before. She’s a Ph.D. student who speaks Italian, French, and English. She’s incredibly sweet and works as a good intermediary when there is something important that Eryn and I need to convey to our host mom. Charlotte made a French quiche with onions, feta, and ham. So delicious. The culmination of culture was really funny that night. We, Americans, are living in Florence eating an authentic French meal.

Wednesday wasn’t all that special. Long day of class. But we did see Botticelli’s Birth of Venus. It was beautiful. We’ve seen so much authentic classic art on this trip that I sometimes take it for granted. So I suppose Wednesday was pretty special after all. It’s not every day in the USA that you get to see famous works of art.

Thursday night I met up with some friends after dinner. We ended up in an Irish pub for a few drinks and lo and behold the White Sox game was on. My White Sox! And we were winning (which, from what I hear is rare these days)! After the game ended we went to meet up with another girl from Lake Forest who is studying in Florence for the semester in a different program. Two of my very good friends from school who are currently studying in Spain came to visit for the weekend! They stayed with Sarah, the other girl studying in Florence, because she lives in an apartment. It was so awesome to see them. We met up at a bar later on Thursday evening and had a fantastic time. Seeing people from LFC is always fun when you study abroad and it’s a bonus when they happen to be good friends. We shared stories all night and made plans to meet up the next day.

Friday morning I met up with Sarah, Maris, and Hannah at the Duomo. John, another LFC kid from my program, came along. It was a mini LFC reunion. Sarah knew of a really good bakery across the river and it totally delivered. They had cupcakes which was a big deal because Italians don’t really do cupcakes. They’re not as big into baked goods, preferring gelato or cannollis. After breakfast we just explored the city and hung out in beautiful palazzos. We broke off around 4 and met up again before dinner. My host mom invited Hannah and Maris over for dinner. Dinner turned out to be a lot of fun. Hannah and Maris speak Spanish very well; Maris is almost fluent. Italian and Spanish are very similar so it was easy to communicate. The whole thing was neat because I got to share part of my experience with people from home. They got to see what I how I live every day.

Last night was a major celebration called Notte Bianca (white night) in Florence. All over the city there were music performances, juggling acts, fire throwers, modern art dancers until nearly 6 am. It was absolute madness! There were sooo many people out. I saw a vegetable orchestra. Yeah, that’s right, people were making music by blowing on cucumbers, pounding on pumpkins, and whistling through gourds. It was awesome. The city was so alive and vibrant. Ultimate celebration mode.

Today Maris and Hannah left for Venice. Super sad to see them leave but I know they’ll have an awesome time in Venice. I can’t wait to go myself in a few weeks. After I said farewell, I went to this park by my house and read a book all afternoon. It’s the little pleasures in life. Tomorrow I’ll hang out some more and do some homework, hopefully book my flight back to London so that I can fly home.

My Italian is coming along I think. It’s amazing how much more I understand than when I first arrived. I think it will be a pretty easy week of classes which will be nice. I think it’s supposed to rain but oh well. It’s another four-day week of classes. I don’t know what exactly I’ll do next weekend, explore Tuscany some more I suppose. I have definitely fallen in love with Italy.

I’m coming home tan. I’m determined.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Mi Madre

Well, my host mom that is.  It's a Sunday night.  I'm currently "studying" for a midterm for my politics class in the morning. It's been a pretty chill weekend.  I spent Saturday exploring parts of Florence I had to get to.  Headphones on, book in purse, and I set out for the Palazzo Vecchio and Ponte Vecchio.  The Palazzo Vecchio has the replica statue of Michelangelo's David as well as a number of beautiful statues and a giant fountain.  I sat on a step and did some serious people watching.  The place was packed and it was fun to be a fly on the wall.  After spending some time watching tourists and Italians alike gawk at giant statues, I decided to walk along the Arno river which is lovely.  I crossed the river via the Ponte Vecchio.  It's one of the most famous sites in all of Florence.  It's this old bridge with stores along the side.  It was really cute.  There were tons of jewelry stores and I tried over and over again to rationalize spending one hundred Euro on a gold bracelet.  Yeah, hahaha that was a no go. After exploring the riverside for a while, I headed back to the center of the city.  A quick gelatto stop at Grom, a local favorite, and I went to hang out in front of Santa Maria Novella.  I just layed in the sun and read some Eliot.  It was a supremely peaceful day.  A day of solitude was so necessary.  Can I just say that it's hard to live with the same 22 people for 4.5 months?  It's been a big challenge and so quiet time was just nice.

This morning I went to Lucca with a couple of girls from my program.  It was absolutely gorgeous all day long, 75-80 degrees and sunny. We walked around town and laid in the sun.  It was a pretty lazy day but lazy in the Tuscan countryside, so that can't really be beat.  I can back and used some free internet at the Linguaviva, and had dinner.  We had cauliflower and roast beef and ricotta cheese.  SO GOOD. 

Now back to my title.  I love my host mom more and more each day.  She might just be one of the most adorable people that I know.  She dances about when we put on music to get ready to go out.  She almost always has a smile on her face.  She will spend 10 minutes searching through her Italian/English dictionary to tell us what we are eating is guinea hen, which she will pronounce without the "h" sound so we look at her even more confused than before.  She has wine at every meal (which not every host family does).  She lets us say that we are full.  She's a wonderful cook.  She is patient with us and our lack of Italian to no end.  She notices when I have a tan (like today) and randomly compliments what I'm wearing.  She is a news junkie and tries to relate the news to us each day.  There simply something peaceful about being in her presence that is much appreciated this far from home.  So, while the language barrier was a challenge in the beginning, I couldn't be happier with my host mom.  Each day brings something new.

And one last note, I have learned something important during my time in Italy.  I AM NOT SHORT! Well, at least not compared to the Italians.  Here, my 5'3'' frame makes me completely average.  Men here are pretty short and I've never seen such tiny people in my life.  I don't know where they put all the food that they eat.  Cuz trust me, it's not only tourists who scarf down the gelatto.

It was really nice walking around on Saturday because of how easily I blend in here.  I got asked for directions, no joke, four different times on Saturday.  Granted, I usually responded with an apologetic face and "no parla italiano," but still, it was nice to feel like I fit or blend. 

29 days left in Europe. 

Man, how the time goes...

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Irony of Volcanoes

Okay, so the last half day in Rome turned out better than expected. We saw a couple of tiny churches and saw some beautiful views of Rome. Then it was off to the train station to catch our train to Naples. The train station was in utter chaos. As I’m sure you’ve all heard, there’s a volcano creating havoc for air travel in Europe. Given how many flights are down, people are turning to the trains. And all of the trains heading north from Rome were sold out until Friday! Totally crazy. Hopefully all of this ash business is over and done with by the time I fly home in a month or so. I have never heard so much about volcanoes as I have in the past 2 days! We boarded the train to Naples and from there took a tram to Pompeii. Our hotel was pretty nice. We had a fantastic view of the mountains (and Mount Vesuvius!) from our balcony. It was pretty late by the time we arrived so we decided to hit up Pompeii the next day. Instead, we took a tram to Sorrento, Italy. It’s this absolutely charming seaside town. So cute. We walked around, shopped, and had a wonderful dinner in town. It was really relaxing and the weather was beautiful.

Southern Italy is certainly different from Northern Italy. It’s a much poorer area and certain places that we passed on the train looked to be in sorry shape. But I swear the physical landscape makes up for it. Huge mountains and the Mediterranean Sea made for incredible views.

We headed back on the tram around 10 and took it easy for the night. We had the chance to sleep in a bit on Tuesday before heading the excavation site (literally a 3 min walk away from our hotel). We grabbed a bite for breakfast and headed in. First impressions: Pompeii is HUGE! I had no idea how massive it was. It turned into a very cool day of exploring the ruins. It’s incredible what has been preserved. We hung out in a former theater and took pictures in a huge amphitheater. I can’t even describe how neat is was to be surrounded by such history and to learn of the complete terror of the way the Pompeii people died. When Mount Vesuvius erupted way back in the day, it rained three meters of ash onto Pompeii. Roofs collapsed and people were crushed. But this was only the beginning. The next day, those who survived quickly suffocated on burning ash and gas that filled the air. There was no escaping it. Completely terrifying to think about. We saw a couple of calcified bodies. One was in a crouching position, the other laying to down with this hands over his head. So creepy.

The experience was totally unique and interesting. Once in a lifetime kind of thing. We boarded the train back to Florence and called it a night. My internet stopped working for some reason on Friday night. This is incredibly frustrating given how much I had to pay for it, but luckily I have the receipt and a teacher that speaks fluent Italian who is going to accompany me to the store that I bought. Hopefully I’ll have it all figured out soon.

I only have two days of school this week! Woot. We have a three day weekend coming up and I am planning to go the Cinqueterre and perhaps the Boboli Gardens in Florence. A book, sunshine, and some solitude sounds just like what the doctor ordered. From one good weekend to the next.
I could totally get used to this…

Sunday, April 18, 2010


So, given that I will have soo much to report from this weekend, I’m going to try to break it down day-by-day. But first, let me say, I’m in ROME! THIS IS INCREDIBLE! BEAUTIFUL! HUGE! OLD! EPIC! WOOT! Okay, now that’s out of my system (for now) and I can break it down for you.

DAY ONE: The day started early as I had to meet the rest of ACM gang at 8:20 in the train station. It’s about a 35 min walk from our house to the train station, a bit of a trek with luggage. We met up with the group (our teachers came with on the trip and have had pseudo classes at all of the different places that we’ve gone to). On the fast train it only takes about an hour and a half to reach Rome from Firenze (on the cheaper trains it can take up to 4 hours!). We got off the train and took a bus to our hotel. We quickly dumped our bags, grabbed some food, and headed to the Vatican. There was no line! Normally it takes about an hour or two before you can even get into the place. Luck was on our side. We broke into two groups, each following a different teacher. I totally got the fun teacher! She let us take pictures and talk while she gave us background and pointed out paintings. The Vatican Museum is giant and you could totally get lost in the place forever. It was pretty cool and there were some pretty epic statues (Epic is the word of the trip because, frankly, nothing else does it justice). After quite the trek through the museums we made it to the Sistine Chapel! It was very cool. You’re technically not supposed to take pictures inside, but I may or may not have taken some video on my Flip camera. Score. Said a quick prayer for G and P’s anniversary, and then our teachers let us free for the rest of the night. I stopped by the Vatican gift shop and headed to St. Peter’s to check it out.

St. Peter’s is AMAZING! MASSIVE! BEAUTIFUL! And for a girl raised Roman Catholic, it just meant that much more. I cannot get over the size of the place. I was with a friend of mine and we kept whispering to each other, “Can you believe it? We’re here, where so much history has taken place! Didn’t the Pope get tackled like right over there?” I went into the special prayer section of the church, said a few, and walked around a bit. I was having a pretty hard time yesterday with homesickness due to the pseudo family reunion that was taking place for G and P’s 60th Anniversary (How incredible is that by the way? I can’t even begin to fathom loving and living with someone for that long. It’s inspiring). But when I was in St. Peter’s I knew that if I couldn’t be with my family, this is one place on the planet that I wanted to be. Catholicism is extremely family-oriented for me and so I just felt so much more connected being in that church. It was pretty wonderful.

After St. Peter’s we headed back to the hotel and I went to dinner with a couple of girls. I had crepes filled ricotta and spinach with some red wine, which was totally fantastic. Food coma inducing. We went out for the night and it was pretty interesting. Some people had a rough night due to too much limoncello (which is gross btw, so tart!). We called it an early night. It was a pretty great first day in Roma.

DAY TWO: We had to be at breakfast at 7:45 this morning which was pretty brutal. On a positive note, I had the best shower I’ve had since arriving in Italy. It was so lovely to have a shower with a curtain and a nozzle that you don’t have to hold over your head. The water was hot and I’ve never been so grateful for a good shower. It’s the little things in life that can make all the difference. We grabbed some breakfast and headed out. We walked over to see the ruins of the Roman forum. It was sooo cool. They are just a sight to behold. So we spent a good chunk of the morning exploring the ruins. This is by far the “oldest” place that I’ve ever been. So neat to think about. There are “gladiators” walking all over the city. Normally they want money for pictures but they gave a friend of mine one for free because it is his birthday. How do you top your 21st in Rome? His other birthdays just won’t be able to compete.

Then we went to the Colosseum (however you spell that). The freakin’ Colosseum! So EPIC. It’s pretty huge and I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. We were released from our teachers for a couple of hours. After taking some pictures and marveling at the splendor, we started the trek back to the hotel. But we ran into a parade along the way. I forgot to mention that today is Rome’s birthday, it’s 2000-something. So they had this massive parade with all these people dressed up in ancient garb. So cool! Also, because it is culture week in Italy which means that a lot of the monuments and museums in all of Italy are free for a week. Perfect timing I’d say. After enjoying the parade we were all thoroughly exhausted. We walked a ton this morning and yesterday. So we grabbed some lunch and took few hours to rest our feet.

We met up with our teachers again at 3 pm. We got to see the Pantheon which was beautiful (and where Raphael is buried).  Then we went on a nearly two hour tour of churches.  I'm not going to lie, I'm so sick of churches.  They are all certainly beautiful, don't get me wrong, but my goodness spending 45 min staring at one altar piece gets old really fast.  After our long trek of churches, we were rewarded with what my professor referred to as "the best gelatto in all of Italy."  I'm no expert, but I would certainly agree.  I got raspberry, chocolate, and champagne gelatto.  That's right, champagne gelatto; it literally fizzed in your mouth.  So fantastic. We were all sooo exhausted by this point so we headed back to the hotel for a bit before grabbing dinner.  We decided to go back to the same restaurant as the night before.  I had potato gnocchi with mozzerella, another wonderful meal. 

I just got back from visiting the Trevi Fountain and sitting on the Spanish steps.  Both absolutely beautiful and must-see places in Rome.  There was a lot of activity on the streets of Rome for a Sunday night.  But we quickly figured out that it was because Rome won a major soccer game.  Cars were honking, people were shouting, and there was a major group of people partying in front of the main government building.  It was awesome and so much fun to witness. 

Not going to lie, not looking forward to tomorrow morning.  We are being dragged to another string of churches which is bad enough, but BONUS we have to bring all of our stuff with us which is going to be very heavy.  Not looking forward to it.  But we head to Pompeii around noon so it won't be so bad. 

What a crazy trip! I have loved Rome.  It's beautiful and the colors of the buildings are so warm and inviting.  The food has been fantastic and the sights breathtaking.  Rome, I'll be back. You can count on it.

Ciao Roma.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Please Don't Stop the Music...

So, it's been a rather average couple of days in Firenze.  Not much to report other than classes and homework.  I did book a flight to Spain today which was pretty exciting.  I'll be going to Seville to see some friends the second weekend in May.  I'm currently watching Legends of the Fall for the umpteenth time and NOT studying for my Italian quiz tomorrow. 

Some random musings about life:  While I've seen a lot on this trip, I have sooo much more to see of the world.  Next stop Africa?  I hope so.  I need to travel.  I feel it in my bones.  This trip has basically wet my appetite and I will figure out a way to do it.  Also, my ipod has been my constant friend on this trip.  I love the way music brings you back to a moment in time, whenever that is.  Country is my drug of choice these days.  It just promises summer and sunshine to me. 

G and P's 60th Anniversary this weekend and so the Finley clan will be invading Two Rivers.  And while I am so stoked to go to Rome, I'd really like to teleport back for part of the day.  I hope everyone has a wonderful time.  My love to G and P.  Miss you guys.

Back to Brad...

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sun, Siena...Sigh...

It's another lazy Sunday.  Woke up around 11:30, streamed addictive crime shows onto my computer, watched the last half of 500 Days of Summer (Awww, so cute), and stacked up the homework that I have yet to do this afternoon (haven't touched the stack yet of course).  I have 48 days left in Europe which feels just about right to me, not too soon and not too long.  It's been a good couple of days in Tuscany.  On Friday, I went to Siena for the day with my class.  Siena is about an hour away from Florence via bus, so I settled in, headphones blasting country music, and stared out at the beautiful Tuscan scenery on the way.  Rolling hills with vineyards and olives...This is the Italy I pictured in my head.  Anyway, the day clearly started off well. 

I loved Siena the minute we got off the bus.  It's cute and clean and bright.  First stop off the bus was at a coffee shop where we were treated to hot chocolate and a pastries.  The hot chocolate was literally melted chocolate.  So delicious, so rich, and decadent.  A decidely good start of the day.  The rest of the morning was spent talking about history and art in class.  We visited this mammoth chapel and learned about Siena's ongoing rivalry with Florence that prompted many of the lavish paintings and sculptures that decorate the church.  We then got a couple of hours to explore the city on our own.  It was an absolutely awesome day for weather, 75 degrees and sunny.  I went with a couple of friends to a pizza place for lunch and good conversation.  Then we topped it off with a gelatto break.  I think I had strawberry and chocolate.  We walked to this piazza and basically basked in the sun for an hour.  It was great people watching and an fast tan.  We met up with class again and headed into the former town hall.  We stared at giant frescoes for a bit and then we had another hour on our own before the bus ride home.  From the loggia of the town hall buiding you could look out over the rolling hills and valleys of the Siena countryside.  Beautiful.  Afterwards, I slowly made my way back to the bus where our teachers had a treat for us yet again.  Apparently there's a particular type of cookie that Siena is famous for and we each got one. Powdered sugar perfection.  I will also point out that I think everyone in Italy, including my own teachers, is determined to have us all gain 50 pounds before we go home.  So, I loved my time in Siena.  Loved seeing a bit of the country and had an all around great day.  When I got home my host mom decided to buy pizza for dinner.  It was a day of pizza! Not that I'm complaining.  But when Italians have pizza, it's not just a slice.  Each person gets like a 12" pie. Massive. 

My host mom had a friend over for dinner and so we got to see her speak in full-on Italian, not the slowed down version we are accustomed to.  Italians talk fast, really fast.  And the stereotype is true:  Italians use grand hand gestures all the time during conversation.  All the time.  My roommate and I basically had zero idea what was going on during dinner but it was pretty cool to watch.  I really didn't feel well Friday night so we called it an early night and crashed. 

On Saturday I got up and decided to stroll through the markets.  I need to do some shopping.  I really want a leather purse and maybe a leather jacket.  Plus, I've got souveniers to by for some folks back home.  I met up with a few friends for lunch and we sat in front of the Santa Maria Novella and enjoyed yet another beautiful day of weather.  Then my friend Emily and I headed out to do a "Palace Walk" for class.  Basically we walked to a bunch of old family palaces and took notes regarding the differences between them and the Medici palace.  Pretty interesting.  Last night we met up with a bunch of friends and went dancing which was a lot of fun. 

Homework day.  Much to do before Rome this weekend. 

Ciao bella.

Thursday, April 8, 2010


The most exciting thing that has happened to me since arriving in Italy happened today.  No, it's not a beautiful view, delicious food item, or art discovery.  I did in fact get to see the award-winning, one of the greatest, my old-man crush Robert Downey Jr today from about 3 feet away! Let me start from the beginning of my day...

It was just an average day in Firenze.  I had my class on Medici at San Lorenzo which is where major members of the Medici family are buried.  The Medici family basically ruled Florence for about 200 years, though unofficially, and had a major impact on the aesthetic of the town.  So it was getting to be a very long 2.5 hours of class.  I'd gone into full daydream mode.  Class finally ended and people headed out.  Then I notice a few classmates slowing down and forming a bit of a clump at the end of the walkway.  I headed over and recieved a "Look, it's Robert Downey Jr!!!" And it totally was! Sitting next to his son, wearing a purple hat and velvet pants, looking entirely inconspicuous.  Nobody else seemed to notice him except the increasingly large group of my classmates that blatantly stared.  He went to another part of the church and we lost him.  But there was only one way out and so we saw him again and rather creepily followed at a distance into a market.  Then we realized we were totally stalking him and quickly quit that.  BUT OH MY GOSH! IT WAS SO COOL!  What I couldn't get over was how we were the only ones to notice him! Maybe Italians aren't as big on him or perhaps, kinder to celebrities or something.  I don't know, but seeing him totally made my day, my week, etc.  I had a quiz in Italian this afternoon and am now using the free internet to take care of things for school and next semester.

The last couple of days have had ups and downs.  I have a head cold so life hasn't been that exciting outside of class.  But I'm feeling better and can't wait for the weekend.  Yesterday was definitely an up.  We went to San Miniato for class.  It's this beautiful church up on a hill with spectacular views of the mountains and Florence.  It was 75 degrees and not a cloud in the sky.  Pretty awesome.  After class we walked to a piazza, grabbed some gelatto, and baked in the warmth. 

Today I've been trying to figure out registering for classes next fall.  I only have one in-class class (in addition to a thesis and research project) and I can't figure out what to take given that I've fulfilled all of my major/minor requirements. An odd problem but proving to be a bit of a challenge.  I'll probably do some homework tonight and go to bed early.  I have a super early start tomorrow because we are going to Siena for the day! It should be fun.  I'm spending the weekend in Florence but then the weekend after is Rome! So excited.  I've promised mom to blog more. Apparently I've been slacking so I'll do my best. 

Ciao from a very weird but good day in Italia.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Buona Pasqua!

Buona Pasqua! Happy Easter from Firenze! What a crazy couple of days it has been in Florence. My first weekend in Florence just so happens to be Easter weekend, so I have had quite an introduction to the city. Easter is a BIG deal in Florence and, I’d assume, all of super Roman Catholic Italy. To begin, I must gush a bit about how much I am starting to love my host mom, in spite of the language barrier. She is so chill and when Eryn and I went out on Friday night, all she said was “Give me your cell phone numbers. I promise not to call but just in case of emergency…” Ha, so cute. Speaking of Friday, let’s see...

Well I had two classes, my politics and Italian classes. So far I really like my politics class. There’s a lot of work. There’s generally a lot more work and a lot more class here in Italy than in London. The professor is adorable and a total sweetheart. My Italian class is going pretty well. It’s a bit a of a struggle just because there is so much information being thrown at us at once. I really need to study more outside of class, but am so not motivated because of how much effort I put into understanding simply the people around me. Every meal is an Italian lesson! It's all a bit exhausting.  After class, my roommate and I decided to walk around for a bit in the sunshine. It was pretty beautiful out. Then we headed home for dinner. I love meals here. The food is always ridiculously fresh and I’ve never eaten more vegetables in my life. But they’re so delicious! Steamed spinach is a new favorite. After dinner, we headed out to meet up with friends and headed to a club called Twice. It was a great venue and we had a really good time. Dealing with Italian men has certainly been a trip. They are as aggressive and forward as their reputation claims. But I’m generally with guys from my program and have learned it is best to just ignore. Plus, looking Italian has proved to be very helpful. People address me first in Italian instead of English which I always find funny. Anywho, Friday was very fun and a good introduction to nightlife in Florence.

Saturday we decided to explore the city a bit. We walked around and I perused an Italian bookstore. I love a good bookstore no matter what language the books are in. After a full day of exploring we went home and chilled for a bit. We had dinner with Anna, the host mom and got dressed to go to church. We decided to go to Easter vigil at the SS Annunziata. It was pretty cool. 6 ACM kids joined us and it was a neat experience to share. It was nearly a 3 hour service! All in Italian! But I totally loved the experience. We started in the courtyard where they had a big bonfire. They said some prayers and handed out candles. Then in front of the doors to the church they slowly lit everyone’s candles. The light spread and it was pretty beautiful. The church slowly lit up. The service was SUPER long and very different from back home, but I won’t forget last night for a long time. This insanely old building full of history at midnight before one of the most holy days of the year. Awesome.

Today we got up early and met up with some friends to go to the Duomo, this massive cathedral in the heart of town. Thousands of people crowded around a huge cart. An electronic dove hit the cart and there was a ten minute fireworks displace. There was purple and red smoke. Simply a wonderful display and I’ve certainly never done anything like that on Easter. Next, we headed over to our professors house for Easter brunch. We had lasagna, bread, salad, veggies, chocolate, wine, champagne, and dove cake. Dove cake is this white cake with limoncello in the inside shaped like a dove. It’s a traditional desert for Easter in Florence. By this point we were all soooo full. Eryn and I came back and literally passed out for 3 hours. Talked to mom on skype and then it was time for MORE FOOD. I thought I was going to be sick at this point. But thankfully dinner was mainly veggies and a light meal. We had steamed spinach and the best cauliflower I’ve ever had. She also made a spinach omelette. I don’t know how but I managed to find room for it. I just finished some homework and am watching The Blind Side on my itunes. Love this movie.

So it was a crazy, unique, and fun first weekend in Firenze. I’m starting to feel at home here and that’s so nice. I hope everyone had a lovely Easter filled with family and laughter.

Easter happiness to you all.

Thursday, April 1, 2010


So things are definitely looking up at the homestead.  Last night we had dinner and managed to have a conversation about Madonna.  Apparently she is a topic of conversation no matter what country you are in!  We learned the dog's name (Teo) and that it is a boy.  We had a dinner of rice and steamed spinach and salmon. I'm not a salmon fan and Eryn detestes steamed spinach but we both ate with a smile, and hey, at least I don't have to cook. This morning at breakfast our host mom, Anna, tried to read us the news from the newspaper.  We only caught about 1/10th of what she was saying but it was really cute nonetheless.  She is sooo patient with us and it is sooo appreciated.  I'm about to go buy some internet and head to the grocery store to pick up some food for lunches. 


Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Mama No Parla Inglese

So I have officially moved into my homestay.  It has been beyond interesting.  My roommate and I headed out yesterday via taxi to reach our new home.  We are staying with Anna Michelin, a single woman who is a school teacher.  She came down and met us and brought us up to her flat. It's a very nice house; we have a nice big room with a huge armoire and so much more space than in London.  Anna was smiling, helpful, and cheery, a genuinely good soul.  Only problem is that she speaks ZERO English. None at all. Zip. Zilch.  Terror and panic quickly set in once Eryn and I realized that we too spoke ZERO Italian.  Yes, I will learn Italian much more quickly this way, but my goodness, this is going to be a challenge.  It gets pretty mentally exhausting to constantly be struggling to understand one another.  We had to guess what she was saying to us all night.  We think her mother goes back to Padua in a month.  Do we really know? Nope.  No clue what the dog's name is (an adorable little brown thing).  Thank goodness I have a partner in this. No internet. Expensive phone use.  Very isolating.  The shower situation is scary.  You have to hold the nozzle above your head and there are no doors so it's very hard not to spray water everywhere.  And it was a really cold shower.  Okay, panic and whining over with.  I swear the experience is certainly not miserable just a major adjustment.

Positives:  Really fantastic dinner of pasta, fruit, salad, potatoes, chicken, bread, wine. YUM.  Anna is very patient with us and eager to help us.  She seems really relaxed and sweet.  I will learn a ton of Italian this way.  We figured out the bus situation with relative ease.  I got a new sim card and my cell phone is up and working.  I might be buying internet.  I think I might have to.  We have plenty of options in the city but it's not all the time and wouldn't be at home.  So, I might drop a chunk of change on that.  It might save my sanity.  Florence is good so far.  I need to do more exploring but we have major class all day long so that might have to wait til the weekend.  GELATTO IS AMAZING! and cheap! and delicious! Yay for Italian food!

Florence is an entirely different experience than London. Worlds different.  But I'm learning and adapting. Slowly but surely.  Heck, I've only been here for 3.5 days.  I'll give it a chance before making final judgement.

Buona sera. (or Buona notte if you're reading this after 11 pm or buon giorna if reading this before 1 pm. Silly Italian rules!)

Monday, March 29, 2010

Overwhelmed in Italy

At the moment, I am sitting in my hotel room in Florence, Italy.  I have the room to myself, as my temporary roommate Hannah, has gone out for the night.  The quiet is amazing given that I was staying in a 13 person hostel room for the past week. So much has gone on since I last blogged that I don't really even know where to begin.  I think I'll update you on my day first since it's so fresh in my mind and then back track a few days.  Today was my first full day in Florence.  While in Florence, I'll be doing a homestay, but we don't move into our homes until tomorrow so we are staying in a hotel until then.  Today was crazy.  I had orientation at 10 am which lasted for a couple of hours.  My professors bombarded me with information, dates, times, locations, requirements, cultural adjustments, rules...etc for nearly two hours.  My head was spinning in so many different directions trying to retain all of the info.  I hadn't been in Italy for 24 hours and was just seriously overwhelmed by the number of things being thrown my way.  After that we grabbed some lunch and headed back into the Linguaviva (a big building where I'll be taking my in-class classes).  I had my first Italian class ever.  The professor spoke mainly in Italian and it was seriously a struggle to keep up.  He kept calling on me and I got progressively more frazzled.  It was hard because I was concentrating on discerning what he was saying in English here and there and kept getting confused.  While I am absolutely thrilled to be taking an Italian course, the first one definitely had me a bit jumbled.  After class we went to pick up bus passes due to the fact that most of the homestays are located outside of the city walls in Florence. So I'll be taking the bus into class most days.  I am pretty lost in the city so far; I tried to walk about and check out the sights for a bit today.  I found an adorable leather purse that I'm probably going to go back and buy tomorrow.  So tempting... People look like me in Florence, or rather I should say that I look a bit like an Italian and when I am not walking with other Americans I'm blending in quite well with my surroundings which is pretty cool.  We had dinner at a delicious restaurant and went out for gelatto afterwards.  I walked around the city at night with a couple of friends and it is pretty beautiful.  There was a woman singing opera with a giant crowd around her and I took some video of the performance which I'll post on facebook.  Right now, I'm pretty tired and am looking forward to moving in with my host family and settling down for the rest of the semester.  Traveling is exhausting I'm beginning to find out, especially when you don't know the language at all.  I'm confident that I'll start to figure everything out in no time and things will come easier.  Just a bit anxious that's all. 

But let me update you on the last couple of days in France.  On Friday, Anna and I went to Grasse, which is where they have lavender fields and perfume factories.  It turned out to be a beautiful day so Anna and I enjoyed walking about the tiny town and then headed into a museum/operating factory for perfume.  It smelled pretty wonderful in the building.  We got a tour of how perfume is made and bought some fantastic smelling soap for pretty cheap.  It was a pretty lovely day in the mountains.  After that we had dinner back at Nice.  It was our only dinner out all week and man, it was delicious.  Red wine, croque madame, frites, sparkling water, YUM. At this point, Anna's friend from Sheffield had joined us and we had a really nice dinner and conversation.  Later that night we went out on the town and wound up in this bar called The Bulldog or something.  We walk in and theres a tiny stage and sitting room.  A guy is playing guitar and singing beautifully.  The ambiance was pretty perfect so we hung out, had a pint, and enjoyed being surrounded by locals.  Pretty awesome. 

On Saturday, we went to Cannes and Antibes.  The weather was supposed to be really warm so we headed straight to the beach in Antibes.  But the wind was pretty cold and we couldn't find the really nice beaches so it turned out to be a bit of a dud.  So we hopped on the bus and headed to Cannes.  Cannes is BEAUTIFUL.  I totally get the appeal and why they have international film festival there every year.  The shoreline was awesome.  We headed over to where they had the festival and took pictures of handprints and had a good time letting the wind blow through our hair.  Really good people watching too.  A stifling 2.5 hour bus ride later, we headed back to Nice and our hostel to pack up our things.  I had a really lovely time in France.  Everyone was genuinely nice and patient with us.  I think the French get a bit of a bad wrap, but then, I'm not one to judge.  I'll just say that we had a wonderful time with the French.  Good food, spectacular views, good friends. 

I love hostels for a number of reasons, but never more so than yesterday when I had 3 trains to catch to make it from Nice to Florence.  I say this because during the week we got to meet so many interesting people.  One of then, Frederick from Sweden, just so happened to be taking the same trains as me until he moved past Florence to Rome.  Frederick was great and made the traveling experience with my giant bag much more doable.  I'd stay and watch our bags while he checked platforms so I didn't have to go up and down the stairs with 70 + pounds of weight dragging behind me.  He showed me how the seats were assigned and showed me where to validate my ticket.  So helpful. I had been pretty nervous about making my connections and traveling alone, so God was seriously looking out for me yesterday.  And then once I got to Milan before boarding my train to Florence, I once again ran into Hannah and Charlie, two kids from my program that had stayed at our hostel in Nice for a couple of days completely randomly.  What are teh chances? So crazy.  But nice since we were able to find our hotel together and Charlie helped me lug my suitcase up two flights of stairs.  We had a group dinner that night and shared spring break stories. 

So now I think we are all caught up.  I seriously can't wait to meet my host family tomorrow.  If you want to send me any snail mail (always appreciated) you can send it to:

Emily Lauten
c/ o Linguaviva Scuola d'Italiano
Via Fume 17
50123 Firenze ITALIA 

As the Italians say:  Buona Notte, Goodnight my friends.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Vive la France

I have a new goal in life: To become an old French woman.  Sound crazy? Unrealistic? Just damn silly?  Probably all of the above, but nonetheless it's true.  I love the old women in France.  They are always very dressed up, high heels and stockings on to go to the grocery store.  Their make up is well done and heavy; their hair some faded shade of dye that no one is buying as natural.  They go about their business walking up and down the massive hills that this part of France has without showing any sign of extra effort.  Meanwhile, we walk by huffing and puffing our way up to our hostel.  The old French women here are pretty fabulous.

So what have I been up to the past couple of days?  On Tuesday, there was a major transportation strike so getting around was made extremely difficult.  So we decided to explore Nice.  We walked down to the Fruit and Flower Market in town, enjoying the smells and variety that the market had to offer.  I really wanted a couple of trinkets that reminded me of people at home, but I reconsidered given the already overly heavy status of my luggage.  After that we walked down to the beach and ate lunch.  It was beautiful out and both Anna and I got some serious color in only about an hour.  The beaches here have stones not sand so that was pretty interesting.  We walked up to this chateau that provides an amazing view of the city.  I am going to have great legs by the end of the week.  We have done nothing but walk stairs and inclines since we got here.  The view proved pretty gorgeous and the warm weather made it pretty perfect.  Anna and I decided that we need to own a yacht though, to truly take advantage of our surroundings. A girl can dream... We then walked through old town which is a really cute area with shops and plazas.  We got some gelatto and settled down in the square and people watched.  Next, we headed over to the Contemporary Art Museum and took a look around.  I don't really get contemporary art. Some is pretty cool, others just plain weird.  There was this one display with pigs that I didn't realize had formerly been alive and were now stuffed that sent me over the edge and booking it in the opposite direction.  We headed back to the hostel, made some dinner, and had a chill night.

Yesterday, we went to Eze Village and Monacco.  Eze Village is this medieval village high up on a hill.  Google it to see some pretty incredible pictures.  It was sooo cool.  This place was straight out of the history books.  There were these tiny little shops everywhere and you could buy coffee and sit on a cliff overlooking the Mediterannean Sea.  We found our way into a little restaurant and got come brown sugars crepes.  Pretty much amazing.  We spent the day with two roommates from Texas who proved to be really fun travel companions.  We caught a bus to Monacco and decided to explore.  Meh, that's how I feel about Monacco.  It was okay.  We couldn't find the beach and settle for a cement platform by the waves.  Super wealthy, super beautiful port but not some place I'll probably find myself again.  We saw the casino but it was too early to go in.  I think that in order to experience Monacco properly you need to stay in a beautiful hotel there, spend some time on a yacht, and shop in a story like Gucci without blinking an eyelash.  Then it would be pretty awesome.  The sights were still lovely, and hey, I still got to get a tan next to the Mediterranean so I'm not complaining.  We went out with some fellow hostel friends for a drink at a place called Wayne's.  It caters to an international crowd and was a really good time. 

Today Anna and I were supposed to go to Marseilles to meet her friend.  But once I found out that the ticket was going to be about 30 euro round trip and realizing that I have some stuff to take care of for school, I bailed on that plan.  Instead, her friend is coming to meet us in Nice tonight so that should be fun.  Anna and I explored the Matisse Museum this morning. I'm a fan of his sculptures, but not so much his sketches.  They also had a temporary display of work by Robert De Niro Sr. because apparently their use of line is similar.  They had some vintage pictures of Robert De Niro Jr and Sr which were pretty cool.  Now, I'm trying to get some work done and we might try to go the beach in a bit so I'm going to get to work.  I think tomorrow will be another beach day and we are trying to go to Cannes and Antibes on Saturday. 

With love from France.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Parle-vous francais?

For the second part of spring break, Anna and I are spending 7 nights in Nice. The idea being that we set up home base at a hostel and travel by train, bus, tram, etc. around the south of France.  So we got into Nice last night around 8:30.  We then took a bus to Terminal 2 where we then took a bus to the middle of town, where we then found a payphone to call the hostel to send the free shuttle that then picked us up and brought us to our final destination, the St. Exupery Hostel.  This hostel is pretty amazing.  It's got a huge common room with a bar, flat screen computers, and a very nice kitchen.  It's a converted monestary.  Not only is it huge but the place is packed with young people from all over.  It's been nice because most speak English which is convenient considering the rest of the country doesn't.  We settled in and met some very nice girls from Texas who live in the same room as us.  It was late at this point so we just settled in.

Today, we got up and tried to decide on a plan.  It was supposed to rain all day so we couldn't quite decide what to do.  Anna and I decided to explore Nice a bit, but we ran into our Texas roommates who (per suggestion by some guy at a hostel) were going to walk around a peninsula nearby.  This sounded like fun and we joined them.  The views were spectacular.  But what was expected to be a 2 hour walk became a 5 hour hike.  It was totally worth it.  We walked right along the coast for miles and miles.  We walked up and down countless hills.  I don't know that I've ever seen anything so beautful.  Stunning.  Pictures to be posted soon although pictures just don't do it justice.  We completely skipped lunch do to the fact that the walk was longer than expected and so around 4 pm we were famished.  We finally found some place to eat and grabbed a bite.  At this point we had been walking around in the rain for a long time and Anna and I decided to head back towards home.  We hopped a bus to the tram station, took a tram into town, and stopped to pick up some groceries for the week.  We get a free breakfast at the hostel and are going to steal bread to make sandwichs for lunches which will majorly help our student sized budgets.  We came back to hang out, I blogged about Belgium, and we settled down in the common room.  We met an Australian and a British guy who made for interesting conversation and just hung out for the rest of the night. 

Oh! And coincidences of coincidencees my roommate in London is staying in the same hostel with another friend from my program.  She didn't book anything til the last minute so we had no idea we were staying in the same place.  It was good to see her and we will probably go out together tomorrow night.  Now, it's off to bed.  Tomorrow there's a transportation strike and so it will be nearl impossible to get around at all.  We wanted to go to Eves and Monacco but that might have to be pushed back.  We think we might go to the Matisse Museum and continue to explore Nice within walking distance.  We'll see what the day brings.

Bonsoir mon amies. 

Spring Break Part 1: Brussels, Belgium

My spring break officially began on Friday and Anna and I boarded our flight to Brussels.  We both fell asleep immediately and therefore were only awake for about 20 min of the ride.  That's my kind of flight. After getting off the plane we hopped a train to the center of town.  Nancy Koeppel met us at the train station and we took a tram over to her flat.  We stayed at the Koeppels for the weekend and they were the best hosts a couple of girls could ask for.  After settling in to our guestroom and getting plane stink off of us we headed out for lunch.  I had the most amazing chocolate truffle thing ever for desert. SO GOOD. And only the start of the amazing culinary experience Brussels would prove to become.  After a lengthy getting-to-know-one-another lunch convo we headed back and with Nancy's help tried to organize our France trip a bit.  Then we headed to a wine bar with Nancy and had a really good glass of Chianti.   Yum.  A girl so so get used to this.  After a drink we headed to a really nice Italian restaurant where Jeff Koeppel, former neighbor of Granny and Pupup's, met us.  We had sparkling water and white beer and red wine again.  So good.  There was a HUGE plate of antipasta and the best tortellini I've ever had in my life.  We were so well taken care of on this trip it's not even funny.  After dinner, Anna and I headed to a jazz bar and the Koeppels called it a night.  The music was great and I've never seen that many white boys with dread locks in my life! We didn't stay long due to very little sleep the night before.  A very good introduction to Brussels.

On Saturday Annna and I had the day to explore. I bought my train tickets from Nice to Florence, which was a big relief to get done.  We walked all over town.  We saw the grand place (plaza), the royal palace, and the inside of countless chocolate shops.  And then Anna and I decided to indulge in some local treats.  For lunch we got Belgium frites (french fries).  Apparently they are cooked twice or something which makes them utterly delicious (and artery clogging).  And for desert we had Belgium waffles which are considered desert here.  I had mine covered with ice cream and choclate syrup.  Anna had one covered in fruit sauce.  Again another culinary success! We then went to the Musical Instrument Museum which was really really cool. They give you headphones and then every time you approach a display of instruments music plays that could have been made by the instruments you are looking at.  A multi-senses experience and totally unique.  After a full day of exploring we headed back to chill.  Then we went in search of dinner.  We found a really cute pizza lace and split a pizza and some red wine.  We had a long and luxurious meal and walked about the neighborhood for a bit.  We called it an early night and headed back to the Koeppel's flat. 

On Sunday we got up and went out to brunch with the whole Koeppel crew at this place called the Milkbar.  iT had this crazy 50s diner feel including bright pink walls and a Marilyn Monroe statue.  I ordered pancakes, real fluffy pancakes! My first in 9 weeks! YUM.  Mr. Koeppel insisted that it was not to early to have a milkshake, so with his encouragement we got milkshakes for brunch.  Again, SO GOOD.  We had a really pleasant time continuing to get to know this generous and lovely family.  After brunch, Anna and I packed and headed to a coffee shop.  I attempted to write a blog but shotty internet killed it.  By the time we got back, we said our goodbyes.  The Koeppels had a car drive us to the airport and we headed off to Nice, where I'm currently sitting in the coolest hostel ever typing this.

Some things to know about Belgium:

1. They speak Flemish and French.  Brussels is considered a bilingual city and have both languages everywhere. It turns out that the little high school French I remember is actually coming in handy big time.  I had no idea I would remember so much.  But it certainly helps when ordering at a restaurant.

2.  They are seriously understaffed everywhere.  If you're looking for a job come to Belgium.  Anna and I witnessed on more than one occasion a very stressed solo worker in a restaurant packed with people.  These guys work hard!

3. There's a definite grunge style going on here.  All of the young people we saw had an early 90s America grunge vibe going on.  I kind of dig it. 

4.  The architecture is beautiful! And totally unlike anything I've seen before. 

I thought of many other things to add to this list over the weekend but now can't seem to remember them.  I'll add them as they come.  Brussels was a great experience.  We had the most wonderful hosts and I cannot thank the Koeppels enough for letting us stay for them, treating us to dinner, and generally letting us encroach on their live for a bit.  So so wonderful. Such a great way to start spring break!

Also, I recieved some wonderful news over the weekend.  My best friend since the third grade, Beth, got engaged to her boyfirend of 6 years Mike! I'm so excited for them and for those who know them you have to get Beth to tell you the proposal story, so cute! So congratulations to Beth! I love you so much!

France updates to come.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Farewell Lovely London

My time in London is officially over.  I'm sitting in Nancy Koeppel's (a family friend) guest room in Brussels, Belgium.  I'm surrounded by books and art and fresh flowers about to begin a day of exploring the city.  Anna is in the shower and I will shortly take her place so this post will be brief and then I'll elaborate on my Belgian adventures later this weekend.

My last 24 hours in London were a bit of a blur.  I studied for finals, woke up early to take my finals (grabbed a Krispy Kreme donut for "energy" along the way), took one easy and one insanely difficult final, and headed back to 270 to pack.  It was once again an insanely beautiful day. So I made lunch and sat in my backyard, soaking up the rays and sadly musing that time here was running short.  I read some of my current book, Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential (which I love because I think Anthony Bourdain is insanely funny, a bit of a jerk, but a funny and honest jerk). And then I started to pack.  This became a 2 hour long process and at many moments I sincerely wished mom was here to help me pack up like she did for the original trip to London.  That seems so long ago! Anyway I survived and went to our farewell dinner at the Pembroke, a local pub.  We said our farewells to professors and to each other.  It's kind of weird that we won't see each other for a week, a long time in our acm bubble of togetherness.  Anna got in around 10ish and we hit the sack.

I have loved my time in London.  I love how easy the Tube system is.  I love that I can get anywhere with ease.  I love that British people read books on public transportation.  I love free museums and wondering around them with my headphones on.  I love staring out onto the Thames river at night from a bridge and seeing London lit up.  I love a pub on every corner.  I love the insane amount of history everywhere.  I love perusing the markets and finding the greatest grilled cheese sandwich ever.  I love the British accent.  I love Hyde Park.  I love the immense amount of theater.  I love the grandeur of the churches.  I love that there is always something to do.  I love that London has left me wanting more. 

I have learned so much during my time in London. More than I could have imagined.  I've learned so much about British culture and history.  I've learned so much about myself.  London was my first real experience being abroad (as I don't think Canada counts).  It was my first real experience being entirely on my own. I cooked for myself and figured out that I can walk around London solo and have a wonderful time.  And I think I've taken advantage of it.  So thanks, London.  You've been a real pal, a real eye-opener.  But now it's time to say goodbye.  I'm off to Belgium and France and finally to Florence. I'm certain to have an entirely different experience there. I'm sure it will be amazing, but parting is always such sweet sorrow. 

Off to start my day. Updates to come.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Ode to Cheese and Carbohydrates

I was attempting to compile a list of things that I will miss about London and a separate list about what I’ve learned about London. And while these lists are still to come, I couldn’t help but notice how much time I spent talking about cheese. And food in general. So in that spirit I thought I’d devote a blog to cheese and carbs. Because that’s basically what I’ve been living on for the past two months. That and a vast array of grocery store bakery items. So, I’m seriously going to miss British cheese when I leave. Yes, bizarre considering I live about 3 minutes away from the Wisconsin border at home and as such missing British cheese might be considered nearly sacrilegious. I’ll also admit that it took me a while to even try cheese that wasn’t labeled mild cheddar. But there is something divine about Gloucester cheese and Leicester cheese. Oh, and I have learned that there is really no need to be cheese in slices or shredded. Apparently this thing called a cheese grater was invented a while back and it does the shredding for you...Also apparently a grilled cheese tastes just as good with cheesed sliced by a butter knife than coming prepackaged. Maybe tastes a little better even. Haha ohhh the discoveries I’ve made on this trip.

Due to the fact that I leave on Friday I decided it would be best to eat what I had left in the cabinets. What I have left in the cabinet: an entire bag of rice, one half eaten bag of shell pasta, two expiring potatoes, and four pieces of bread. So I’ll be mega carbo-loading for the week. It’s a good thing that I walk as much as I do cuz otherwise I would have to be rolled to Belgium. I wish I had some poetic way to extol my devotion to cheese and carbs. I’ll just say this:

Cheese (and chocolate and red wine) can make just about anything better.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Totally Forgot

I should explain the title of my last post.  When I was walking to the bus station yesterday we crossed paths with a family headed in the opposite direction.  I just hear this 6 year old kid yell, "PIGEONNNNN!!!!" It was hilarious and quickly revealed them to be Americans.  The dad just shook his head and said in a southern accent, "Well it's the kid's first pigeon." A very funny way to start the day. :)


So, it's my last Sunday of my last weekend in London.  Sad.  And what does the day have in store? Homework. Mounds and mounds of paper writing.  The sun is shining.  I think it's taunting me.  I would much rather be out exploring in my last couple of days but I suppose it's not to be.  I have two major papers, two major finals, packing to do, letters to send, life to get in order between now and Thursday.  On a positive note, I head to Belgium on Friday. Woot. Woot.  So I'm going to suck it up and get things done. The past couple of days have been very interesting.

On Wednesday night we went to London Assurance at the National Theater.  My roommate Laura and I decided to go early to check out the bookshop.  Once we got there, we discovered we had enough time to grab some cocktails at a restaurant called Giraffe next to the theater.  They had half price drinks for Happy Hour and we devoured some pina coladas. Yum.  Then we headed to the show.  London Assurance was really funny.  It was different from all of the other plays that we had been to so far.  The British audience lovedd it and while some of the jokes went over our American heads it was really enjoyable. 

On Thursday we had a class cancelled due to the professor being sick.  So I decided to make pancakes and eggs. After some trial and error they turned out rather delicious. My first pancakes in two months! After that I headed to Oxford Circus for what turned out to be a particularly frustrating day of shopping.  Let's just put it this way, the British don't have curves like we Italian Americans everything I could find was a skinny jean.  Doesn't work for me.  So I headed home, grabbed some internet time and made some dinner.  Laura and I then decided to take advantage of the cheap drinks at Giraffe again.  Call it a study break.  So we headed back and picked up some drinks and dessert.  Cheescake. YUM.  Good food and a good friend made it a successful night.  By the time we got back I was thoroughly content and sleepy.  Passed out without doing a stitch of homework.  Meh.

Friday we got up and got ready to go to meet our professor. Now, due to poor communication we didn't know she had rescheduled Thursday's class to Friday.  So we waited in the wrong location for a half hour.  We called our program director to ask what was up; Sarah (that day's professor) had not given us her cell number. So frustrating.  When word finally came back we were forced to meet up with her in a different part of town.  So we finally got there an hour later and were perturbed to find her unapologetic and even angry at us (the whole class).  We were in for a very longgg class. 3.5 hours later we made it back to 270.  My roommate Laura, angry about missing a skype date, and I headed to the King's Head for a pint and internet connection.  Frustrating day. We decided to shake it off and have a good night.  We ended up at a club in Earl's Court with a great DJ and no cover. Success!  After grabbing some kebobs on the way home, we crashed. 

Yesterday Laura and I went to Cambridge! We explored the city and the many colleges.  There was a really cool market in the center of town and we just had a really fun time wandering.  It actually looked a lot like Oxford.  We grabbed some dinner at a mexican restaurant satisfying our constant craving for tex mex.  Really good tacos with cheese melted at the bottom of the tortilla.  We still had some time before our return bus and we went in search of a pub.  We got a couple of pints and ordered a dessert to share. (Can you see a trend forming?) We wanted to be adventurous with our selection and picked Banoffee Pie. BEYOND AMAZING. It bananas and carmel and the softest pie crust imaginable.  So sweet and an agreed upon favorite.  I should look it up to find out exactly what we ate. Wonderful wonderful.  We headed back to the bus and headed back to Londontown.  On the way, I'm rather sad to say, I finished my copy of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.  I always forget how much I love those books.  There is something so satisfying and yet so sad about finishing a good book.  I guess it's a sentiment that only book lovers will understand.  I hate to the leave the world of Hogwarts behind.  I do have a book I need to read for class so I suppose it's a good thing to be done. 

Thoroughly exhausted from the busy day, we had a girl's night and watched Sex and the City...And now we're back to the present.  I should go make some breakfast and get my busy day started.  Oh, and a shoutout to Granny and Puppup. Thanks for the wonderful St. Patty's Day card.  I found it on my bed when I returned from Cambridge and it was a great surprise.  I love that my little blog has readers and I hope you're able to see a bit of the world from my eyes as I encounter adventure after adventure.

Papers await.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

You Say You Want a Revolution

Ahh Wednesday...Hump Day...I'm currently sitting in a pub called The King's Head mooching their free internet and devouring overpriced (but delicious) nachos with my roommate.  I've been jam packing my days with exploring London in my precious remaining time.  You know the drill by now.  I'll backtrack a bit...

Monday night I went to see Measure for Measure with my class at the Almeida Theater.  It was wonderful and the actors created really dynamic and interesting characters that I didn't expect.  The stage was really interesting and there were two moving walls that created the backdrop of four different settings.  I would give the performance a solid A- (cuz there's always room for improvement).  So it was a nice night at the theater.  Afterwards I headed to McDonald's to mooch off of their free internet until about 1 am.

270 officially does not have internet between now and our departure from London.  Ultimately frustrating and leaving us all scrambling for internet cafes and ambiance a bit nicer than McDonald's. 

Anyways... On Tuesday we had class at the Soane Museum which was pretty interesting.  After that I headed to King's Cross to meet up with my roommate and visit Platform 9 3/4 which was cool.  However, the station was under construction so 9 3/4 is tucked away back in a hard to find corner.  It will be nice when renovations are over with but for now it's kind of a let down.  We took some obligatory photos and went in search of the British Library.  The British Library was pretty cool.  They had this exhibit that held (among other things) some original writings of DaVinci, early copies of Shakespeare, early editions of Alice and Wonderland, hundreds of years old Biblical texts...the list goes on and on.  It was totally totally cool.  A couple of exhibitions had closed the day before so there wasn't much else that we could explore.  So we went to the bookstore, and I picked up some pretty neat postcards.  I've decided to start an elephant postcard collection.  I found a really neat postcard at St. Paul's with elephants on it and bought it for myselft.  And then I saw a really cool elephant postcard at the library and so a collection is born.  Elephants are my fav animal and you'd have to see the postcards to believe me, but they're lovely.  We headed back to 270 and I went to find internet once again.

Last night I went to see Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.  OMG! IT WAS FANTASTIC! Excuse the intense use of capitals but it was just that good.  The acting was INCREDIBLE.  LOVE LOVE LOVE the whole thing.  The stage was wonderful.  By far my favorite play I've seen so far.  I had tears in my eyes by the end.  So powerful, so moving.  Yes, I'm gushing.  No, I don't care. You would too if you'd just seen it. Trust me.  I left the theater shaking with enthusiasm.  I'm writing my final paper for my theater class on the production and I'm actually excited to write it.  Woot. Oh, and it was the first time I'd seen American accents on stage since being here and there was something rather comforting about that southern drawl.

Today I had class and got to meet the actor who played Angelo in Measure for Measure.  He was incredibly well spoken and one of my favorite character depictions in the play.  He was absolutely fascinating and provided some very interesting insight into the play.

After class we went in search of Abbey Road (hence the title of the blog).  We took a couple of photos while trying to dodge traffic.  Then we signed the wall and joined thousands of others in our tribute to The Beatles.  What a historic place! And now I will never get Hey Jude out of my head...

Tonight is our last play for class.  We're seeing London Assurance at the National Theater tonight.  It will be so weird not going to plays once we get to Florence.  I bought tickets to Les Miserables next week so at least I'll have one more play to look forward to. I have so much homework to do and I'm steadily checking things off my list.  Only a few more "Must dos" before I leave Londontown left on my list. 


Monday, March 8, 2010

The Great Outdoors

So as I mentioned earlier, the past week or so we have been have the most wonderful sunshine here in London.  As such, I decided that yesterday was the perfect opportunity to take advantage of it.  And I felt the profound need for a day of solitary exploration.  I hopped on the Tube and headed over to Hyde Park.  I had yet to go there and it was absolutely beautiful. And HUGE.  I walked around a bit, watched some rollerbladers with envy (I lovee rollerblading), took some photos, and found a spot on a bench in the sun to sit down.  I read Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and generally enjoyed the sense of spring in the air.  Days like yesterday are the kind of days that restore my faith that spring is coming.  It won't be cold forever and everything seems to spring to life. 

A side note on something I love about London:  Everytime I get on the Tube I see lots of people reading.  And they're not just reading newspapers and magazines; they're reading novels.  And it's usually young people that I see doing this.  Oh, and there is poetry on the tube.  There William Blake quotes and such.  William Blake stands out to me because he happens to be one of my favorites.  I like to scare mom and tell her I'm coming back from Europe with Blake poetry tattooed on my body somewhere.  Who knows? It could happen. 

Back to Sunday...After hanging out a bit in Hyde Park I started to get chilly from sitting still.  I quickly realized how close I was to Buckingham Palace.  Another place to check off my list! So I walked in that direction.  On the way I stopped by the Duke of Wellington memorial and a cluster of other various memorials along the way.  Pictures to come.  I stolled through Green Park and found my way to the palace.  It was really pretty.  I can't imagine what both Hyde Park and Green Park would look like later into the spring and summer.  It was beautiful without many leaves, but I'm willing to bet it would be pretty stunning with everything in bloom.  I'm flying out of London at the end of the program in May so I might come back a day before my flight in order to revisit some places like Hyde Park.

After getting a full look at Buckingham Palace I decided to head over to Covent Garden, only a few stops away on the Tube.  It's a pretty massive shopping area.  There were really fun street performers everywhere.  I went to the Covent Garden Market and enjoyed the general merriment and activity on the street.  Oh, and I found a cupcake shop and treated myself to a red velvet cupcake. YUM. I perused some shops and found the most beautiful scarf and spring jacket (that I swear I need) for about 100 pounds.  After absorbing sticker shock, I decided it was time to head home.  Needed to be away from temptation. I balk over plane tickets that are more than 40 pounds, so I simply couldn't rationalize away that kind of money. Sad but I'll live. I went home, made dinner, talked to Bethy on skype, and settled down with Measure for Measure that I needed to read for class.

Today I had class and then went to explore a local cemetary.  Yes, this sounds incredibly morbid.  And yes, I felt very strange taking photos in a cemetary but it was really beautiful.  I find that the way different cultures handle death and the afterlife is really fascinating.  Now, I'm back in an internet cafe trying to find the cheapest way possible to get from Nice to Florence.  Time's running out to make this purchase so I had better get to it.

I was standing next to a man on the Tube lift yesterday who was at least 7 feet tall, no exaggeration.  And I couldn't help but wonder how life must look from up there.  All of my photos pretty much represent what the world looks like from my 5'3'' frame.  It's kind of interesting to think about.  Totally a random side thought. 

Tonight I'm off to the Almeida Theater to see Measure for Measure.  It's gotten great reviews so I'm rather excited. 

Love me some Shakespeare.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

P.S. Tex Mex

I totally forgot to mention that I finally got my desired Mexican food! Right when Laura and I got off of the bus we were starving so we went in search of food.  Only a block away was a place called The Mission.  It was basically the British equivalent to Chipotle.  We practically ran there out of excitement. Sooo delicious.  I had steak tacos and tortilla chips.  Bliss. Mission accomplished. :)

(Insert Title with Alliteration Here)

Alas it's Sunday once again.  I seriously don't know where the time goes anymore.  I now only have one weekend left until I leave London.  Anna and I fly out bright and early on March 19th for Belgium.  Very excited.  Much to do in the next two weeks.  Two finals. Two final projects. Multiple plays to read.  It's going to be hectic.  Oh yeah, and I still have major exploring to do.  I'm currently eating breakfast and watching Criminal Minds (Thanks for getting me hooked mom).  Off to a bit of a late start.  Let me backtrack a bit and get you all up to speed.

Thursday was a really busy but fun day.  For class we went on the Spitalfields walk.  The area is a big business area.  The architecture was pretty interesting and brand new.  The area almost has a Chicago kind of feeling to it.  I guess the clean lines and colors of the buildings reminded a bit of home.  It was an absolutely beautiful day out.  We then walked towards Brick Lane which has a ton of vintage shops and a very eclectic feel.  Then we went to this place called Dennis Seaver's house.  Apparently an American in the 70s bought a house from the 1700s and decided to restore it to its former glory.  You aren't allowed to speak at all and are supposed to pretend as though you have walked back in time.  The detailing on this home is incredible.  Everything from the floors, to the smells is ridiculously authentic.  It was a very cool and very bizarre at the same time.  Thursday night we went to see a production of Ghosts.  The director was actually one of the lead actors. It was a pretty interesting production.  The lead actress was amazing.  Not my favorite play but certainly very interesting. 

Friday I had class and afterwards I really wanted to go to a bookstore.  I went and picked up a copy of Harry Potter.  A. I'm in London and it's seems utterly appropriate.  B. I really needed a fun book. C. I went to Oxford yesterday and got to see where they filmed parts of the Harry Potter movies. (Incredible!)  Friday night we went out for a bit and called it an early night.

So, OXFORD! Yesterday my roommate Laura and I decided to go see Oxford.  A guy I know from Lake Forest is going there for the semester. We're class friends and I don't know him really outside the classroom. But since I was in the area I gave him a call.  He ended up serving as our tour guide for the rest of the day.  It was spectacularly beautiful.  We explored the area, learned all about the many Oxford colleges, and had a really good time.  We then went to see a rowing competition.  Rowing is hugeee at Oxford.  It was another beautiful day.  Laura and I totally nerded out. It was one of those moments that you have to step back and remember where you are. We were at Oxford on a beautiful day watching the Christ Church rowing team kick ass and take names. Pinch me.  We then went out to dinner with Paul (the LFC kid) and a bunch of his friends to a pub.  It was a really good time. There were serious intellectual debates going on which was really entertaining and refreshing.  Just a seriously awesome night.  We went back to Paul's flat, bought a bottle of wine, met his roommates, and then went out to another pub.  We just sat there for a couple of hours talking and laughing.  Around midnight Laura and I realized that we had a two hour bus ride home so we called it a night.  I seriously need to thank Paul for showing us around and entertaining us all day.  It was simply fantastic. 

Now I think I'm going to go to Hyde Park and perhaps explore the top two floors of the Tate Modern.  We'll see where the day goes.  I have to read Measure for Measure and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof tonight so I'll be plenty busy. 

Two weeks left in London...